Renewal Drama

Like sands through the hourglass… so are the constant shake-ups and craziness behind the scenes. We’re about due for our annual “Plan to Save Days,” and right on schedule, there’s word of major drama, this time between Sony and NBC. Daytime Confidential reported Monday that the writers were told to cease writing until the show strikes a renewal deal:

[T]he team led by Josh Griffith and Dena Higley has been told to stop writing until a new deal is reached between NBC, Sony and Corday Productions. The 50-year-old sudser has been written through September 2016.

First of all, it’s insane that they already have scripts through this coming September. I do understand Corday and Sony wanting to put a halt to things, since without a renewal deal, they’d just be paying for scripts that might not get used. But there was more yesterday:

“They [NBC] want the show to go back to taping closer to air,” says one insider. “The current production model doesn’t really give NBC the chance to make notes, or for DAYS to fix story and casting issues that might impact ratings.”

As a cost-cutting measure, DAYS began taping the serial as much as five months ahead several years ago. Sources say NBC would like to see it go to a production model more in line with other network daytime soap operas.

It’s been evident for a long time that the excessive lead time is hurting the show. If something doesn’t work, we’re stuck with it for 4-6 months onscreen before they can course-correct. I’m wondering if all the scenes cut recently have been part of an attempt to power through crappy story and get to fresher stuff.

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The problem, of course, is that this sped-up production model is what has kept Days alive since 2009. Since they’re written so far into the future, they’re able to shoot scenes from various episodes in a single day — so, for example, they’ll do an entire day in the Horton living room, which cuts down on turnaround time because they don’t have to reset lighting and cameras for every new scene. They take “dark” weeks, meaning they break from shooting, which means they don’t have to pay the production staff and crew. (Actors are normally paid by the episode in which they appear, not by the days they shoot, so this doesn’t really affect them.) The problem is that the lead time has grown and grown, and now they’re so far out that it’s having a noticeable, negative impact on the quality of the storytelling.

I’m not entirely clear why they haven’t built in more dark periods to close the gap a bit. Taking the summer off, for example, would do wonders. The other element of this equation is that the writers don’t seem to take time off, and it’s clear that each writing staff has burnt out in 1-2 years. Time off, or even time spent away from script-writing and really focusing on recalibrating long-term story, might do wonders.

The upside of all this is that it seems NBC wants to keep the show on the air and is actually attuned to its quality, rather than just lamely using it to fill airtime until they find something better. The broadcast networks haven’t been able to come up with much in the way of reliable, cheaper daytime programming, and I believe that NBC values Days as a heritage property, so fingers crossed for a renewal deal in the near future. Meanwhile, it’s probably time to start guessing at what writing staff and/or cast shake-ups are coming down the pike…

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13 Comments on “Renewal Drama”

  1. Mo Says:

    OMG with time off the writers are going to lose TOTAL control of the already tenuous grasp of time they have on the show! When DAYS comes back Hope will be living in The Dark Ages while Chad and Abby are getting married on Mars!

  2. Shea Says:

    The “ownership” of Days seems like a convoluted mess and I have wondered for quite a while if some of our issues with the show are not a reflection of “too many chiefs” or something like that. Who is in charge? Who hires and fires writers? I can’t imagine trying to make decisions with Corday, Sony, and NBC all wanting input.

    I am definitely not a writer but I know on my job I basically have 2 bosses and lately it has given me headaches trying to figure out how to do my job with 2 different people giving instructions. I can only imagine adding a 3rd!

    Plus- what happens if 1 member wants out of the game? Could Sony just bow out and let Corday and NBC buy the rights?

    Bringing production to a complete halt seems like a mistake and hardship for crew members but increasing the length of the dark periods would seem to be a fairly easy solution. How long are the dark periods now?

    • mykleraus Says:

      I think that’s part of the problem. The way it works is that Sony/Corday are the production company (jointly), so you already have two entities in the mix. They pay to have the show made. Then NBC pays a license fee to air it. So technically, NBC doesn’t own anything besides rights to air the show. The problem is that when the ratings go down, the show is less profitable, so they offer a reduced license fee at renewal time. The license fee is ALWAYS lower than the cost of production — studios make the shows at a loss, but they recoup in reruns/syndication/overseas deals/etc. I think in 2008-09, the license fee was cut by something like 40%, which is when this new production model went into effect.

      If Sony wanted to bow out, they would have to be bought out (a la Basic Black!). I think Corday’s stake in it is not nearly as large as Sony’s, so that would be a tough buy-out, or Corday would have to essentially find the money to keep producing somewhere else. If NBC wanted out, however, Corday/Sony would be free to shop the show elsewhere. Even if NBC came back and said, “We’ll only offer you 50% of the current license fee,” the studio(s) COULD try and take the show elsewhere. I don’t know that they’d have a ton of prospective buyers, though it’s possible a smaller cable network might want to try it, or that it could move online.

      I think they take a week off here and there, and then like a month at a time they’re fully dark. In one sense, it sucks for the crew, but on the other hand, that’s all other TV production is. Crew members jump from show to show to show all the time (think about primetime shows that only do 13 episodes a year). So it wouldn’t be totally insane, though I’m sure there would be hurt feelings, if they decided to film for, say, three months at a time, then take three months off.

  3. ADW Says:

    I’m glad you did a post on this subject 😀 Good point about the writers being over worked, sometimes it’s better to have quality over quantity. Some more sabbaticals for the writers would beneficial but, not overdoing it. Hey, if Chad and Abbie go to Mars perhaps they can run into Eugene and Calope–I don’t those two characters were of this Earth.
    I think the writing/filming episodes up to 6 months in advance is a double edged sword. I heard it was a strategy to keep Days from being canceled as well as saving money with filming. Then, the six month ahead method in part caused ratings to sharply decline to abysmal numbers of around 1.7 as Days treads water far beneath the only other 3 remaining daytime soaps. I really want see the gap closed so, constructive criticism from fans is taken to heart; interest from viewers is the main fuel which keeping the fire burning. I thought it was ridiculous that I had to sleep through and commiserate with fellow fans for months on end involving all things that were Jordan, Sarena, and Paige. I would be sad to see my favorite show which I’ve been watching on and off for nearly 30 years cease to exist; soaps are a work of art and they are historical, they existed on the radio long before people had TVs. It’s ashame that talk shows, “reality” shows, and court shows have taken over. I know there have been other shorter lived prime time soap-like serials (like Melrose Place) but, I couldn’t get into them for the long haul.

    • mykleraus Says:

      They can’t afford to have months and months of stuff that’s clearly not working hogging up the screen. There’s no way Jordan should’ve lasted a year and a half, at least not in the way she did. They need to close the gap so that the onscreen product can be adjusted.

      I really want them to find a way to work this out.

  4. Farah Says:

    This smells of NBC trying to cover their behind. IF they cancel Days, they’ll come out smelling like roses. “Hey, at least WE tried”. I heard they’re trying to reduce their licencing fee, which would give the show even less budget than the shoe string one it runs on now. They’re totally trying to shift blame to Sony/Corday,

    • mykleraus Says:

      That’s my concern — that it’s a “Hey, we want the show, but only on these terms” sort of thing. But then again, if the ratings are down, the ad revenue is down, and at a point, the show isn’t worth them paying for. If they’re giving Corday and Sony a chance to correct that, they should take it.

      • Farah Says:

        I agree! I certainly want the show back on a normal shooting schedule. It’s exhausting. It takes the fun out of everything. What’s the point of engaging if you know you can’t change anything?

      • mykleraus Says:

        Yeah. I don’t think it’s a good idea for people creating entertainment and/or art to pander to their audiences, per se, but they need to be aware of reactions. If something is lying there lifelessly onscreen and ratings are going down, something isn’t working. Having to wait through five more months of it isn’t a great plan.


  5. […] "Days of Our Lives" Commentary « Renewal Drama […]

  6. Barb Says:

    I know the writers certainly did a hatchet job on Steve and Kayla. It is so sad the way that SL went. Discussing, Disappointing. This is a good example of not having time to fix a very big problem.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I think they can extract themselves from this dumb story turn pretty easily without harming the characters, but it’s ridiculous that it would take SIX MONTHS for any course-correction to show up onscreen!


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